Postgraduate Queries: Will my results hinder my prospects? What options will best help my career?

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The Independent Online

Q. In 2005, I graduated in business information technology with a very poor result. I know I chose the wrong course and now, at 48, I'm in a dead end job. What are my chances of qualifying as a lawyer?

A. Many mature students do qualify as lawyers, and they are increasingly welcome in both the solicitors' and barristers' professions. Maturity brings with it the confidence and skills to form relationships with business clients and the life experience to deal with demanding situations. Extended work experience is an asset in any legal environment, and any knowledge gained from your job (however "dead end") might stand you in good stead in employment or commercial law. But in your case, one issue may hold you back, namely your degree result. Increasingly, law firms of all kinds ask for a 2.1 as a minimum prerequisite to taking up a solicitor's training contract, or obtaining pupillage as a barrister. However, in terms of work as a solicitor, there may be possibilities of overcoming this. Typically this involves either proving your mettle in a paralegal role and then moving into a training contract, or qualifying instead as a legal executive and then taking additional exams to become a solicitor. Find out more about the latter on the Institute of Legal Executives website ( www.ilex.org.uk), and www.lawcareers.net will provide information on all aspects of working in law.

Q. I got a 2.1 in sociology and history three years ago, and have been working in a financial sector office environment since, but now that I'm applying for more senior roles, I've found I need further qualifications. What postgraduate paths could I explore to give me a greater chance to further my career?

A. I sense that the first thing you need to get clear is what sort of business role you are after long term: financial, marketing, sales or HR are just some examples. The "What Jobs Would Suit Me?" area on www.prospects.ac.uk allows you to build a profile of your skills, motivations and interests and then compare that profile with those of over 400 graduate occupations. The "Types of Jobs" part of the same site will help you as well.

In many cases, the qualifications that you need to progress will be professional rather than purely academic, so it is important to decide which area of work you wish to pursue. For instance, there are several accountancy bodies with their own professional qualifications and a postgraduate qualification would not be a substitute. However, in areas such as marketing or human resources management, it would be possible to take a postgraduate course part-time or full-time, or undertake the study directly with the professional institution. A key factor when considering any postgrad course is to find out from the university where previous students have gone on to find work.

Thanks to Liz Hagger and Gill Sharp, careers consultants for Domino Careers (www.dominocareers.co.uk)

Send your queries to Steve McCormack at steve.mcc@virginmedia.com

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